Foiled death-ray terror plot is 'the stuff of comic books'

Two New York men were indicted this week in an alleged plot to build a portable X-ray weapon to destroy enemies of Israel that scientists say is "the stuff of comic books."

Indeed, while death rays may have been the preferred weapon of Golden Age supervillains and B-movie mad scientists, their real-world application is dubious in best. However, that apparently didn't stop 49-year-old Glendon Scott Crawford of Galway, New York, and 54-year-old Eric J. Feight of Hudson, New York, from trying.

The two appeared Wednesday in federal court in Albany, New York, charged with conspiracy to provide support to terrorists with the weapon. According to The Associated Press, federal prosecutors allege that Crawford, an industrial mechanic for General Electric in Schenectady, approached Jewish groups last year searching for funding and people who could help him with technology that could secretly deliver damaging, and possibly lethal, doses of radiation to Muslims and other targets he considered enemies of Israel. The indictment states that he traveled to North Carolina to solicit more money from "a ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan," who contacted the FBI.

Feight, an outside GE contractor with mechanical and engineering skills, designed, constructed and tested the remote control, which they intended to use to operate an industrial X-ray system mounted on a truck.

The investigation began in April 2012; according to the indictment, investigators had an undercover source in place within weeks of learning of Crawford's activities, and later an undercover investigator. That investigator provided Crawford with X-ray tubes and altered technical specifications, while Feight was given $1,000 to build the control device. Feight was also told he'd be given access to an actual X-ray system on Tuesday, when the two men were arrested.Humorously enough, during a November meeting with undercover agents, Crawford and Feight were said to have dubbed their group "the guild," which we can only assume is short for The Guild of Calamitous Intent.

As bizarrely retro-futuristic as a death ray sounds, and as serious as federal, state and local authorities appear to be taking the plot -- "This case demonstrates how we must remain vigilant to detect and stop potential terrorists" -- radiation experts assert the whole thing is nonsense.

"There is no instant death ray. ... It's not feasible," Dr. Frederic Mis, radiation safety officer at the University of Rochester Medical Center, tells The Associated Press. "It's the stuff of comic books. That's going to be the interesting thing for the court to face because their designs would not have worked."

However, prosecutors insist one expert who examined the device and specifications considered the portable X-ray weapon a credible threat. They declined to name the expert, though.

A federal magistrate has ordered Crawford and Feight to be held without bail until a preliminary hearing next month, saying they pose a threat to public safety.

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